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[whitespace] Quetzelcoatl

Notes From the Underbelly

Mea Culpa Quetzalcoatl

By Eric A. Carlson

"The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting."


I for one clutch (metaphorically) Quetzalcoatl close to my bosom. The good Godzilla protects the Japanese, but Quetzalcoatl is the patron monster of San Jose--and will save us from greedy landlords and dotcom sprawl. Watch out, Cisco; take care, Teryon--Quetzy's radioactive venom will disable your routers and disrupt your broadcast. Yes, he is a bit homely. But Quetzalcoatl isn't the only homely phenomenon in San Jose.

For instance, the Christmas in the Park Celebration in the Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez. Just kidding--what kind of monster would deconstruct such an event? Though you must admit those drably decorated Christmas trees all look alike. Is that the best those kids can do? And the teddy bears dressed up in Santa Claus outfits are annoying, as are the gingerbread choo-choo trains and masonite chipmunks. In fact, a more ghastly display of cutout kitsch you are not likely to experience in one lifetime. (I hereby request to be placed in the witness protection program.)

To experience total-immersion ugly, drive to the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University ... to ogle the most wretched statue in the world. Actually, a replica of the most wretched statue in the world. The original Standing Figure by Willem de Kooning disgraces Central Park in New York City--across the street from the Plaza Hotel, of all things. Words fail. You need to see this foul bronze to fully understand the depth of the horror. Fortunately, there are treasures at this museum to salvage your sensibilities. Claes Oldenburg's Soft Inverted Q is a pink delight. Soft Inverted Q and the de Kooning disaster are on a lawn to the side of the building. Inside, a Wayne Thiebaud dessert painting looks good enough to eat. And the Rodin Sculpture Garden is spectacular. Rodin: brilliant. De Kooning: back to art school with you, venerable sir.

In front of the San Jose Museum of Art stands Figure Holding the Sun by Italo Scanga. Known as Gumby Monster by one local gadfly. It resembles a giant dragonfly daubed in kindergarten colors. The design and coloration might be appropriate for some place--perhaps a children's playground--but they seem incongruous between the San Jose Museum of Mighty Fine Art and The Fairmont Motel.

Robert Graham's provocative "how did that fly by the censors" statue of two cavorting naked women stands at the entrance to the Robert Peckham Federal Building (280 S. First). Some would claim we nixed our chance to gad about naked when Adam and Eve were booted out of paradise (Eve started it). Just to be on the safe side, pasties and a G-string should be welded over the naughty parts.

Another provocative statue is deemed so toxic that it has been locked up in an Oakland warehouse for 11 years. The Thomas Fallon statue was minted in Italy, shipped to the Bay Area, and has never seen the light of day. The fact that Thomas raised the Stars and Stripes in the 1846 war with Mexico is not met with the same degree of enthusiasm by all of San Jose. In addition, he was kicked out of hotels in his later years for "disreputable habits"--whatever that means.

Quetzalcoatl stares wanly at The Tech. And is looking better every day.

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From the October 12-18, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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